On Friday, more than five years after a bullet shattered his right femur, Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Valdivia received his Purple Heart.
But Valdivia, honored alongside 46 others killed or wounded in the deadly 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, is conflicted.
"It feels good, but at the same time I'm feeling numb," said Valdivia, who was shot three times that day. "It's a guilty feeling. I only got wounded. Deep inside, I feel I don't deserve it."
Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded when then-Maj. Nidal Hasan attacked his fellow troops Nov. 5, 2009, in what became the deadliest mass shooting on a U.S. military base.
Hasan, then an Army psychiatrist, was convicted in August 2013 of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder and sentenced to death. He is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while his case is on appeal.
The Purple Heart ceremony was years in the making because the Pentagon previously considered the Fort Hood attack workplace violence. Only after a years-long battle by victims and their families did Congress mandate a change in the medals' eligibility criteria.
"No one was more affected than those we honor today with the Purple Heart and Defense of Freedom medal. Simply stated, this is what our Army is all about," said retired Gen. Robert W. Cone, who was commander of III Corps and Fort Hood at the time of the attack. "Thank you for your persistence in making sure the government does the right thing by these great patriots."
The new definition of a foreign terrorist organization states that an event should now be considered an attack by such an organization if the perpetrator "was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack," and "the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization."
Army officials said they had sufficient evidence to conclude Hasan "was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack," and that his radicalization and subsequent acts could reasonably be considered to have been "inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization."
A bugler plays "Taps" during a ceremony April 10, 2015, to award Purple Hearts and Defense of Freedom Medals in honor of those killed and injured in the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo: Heather Brinkmann, Waco-Temple-College Station, Texas)
Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, present commander of III Corps and Fort Hood praised the persistence of the survivors in other ways.
"Ten of the 30 surviving soldiers that day continued to serve," some deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, MacFarland said.
Philip Warman, whose wife Lt. Col. Juanita Warman was the highest-ranking soldier killed in the shooting, said he was eager for the victims to receive the award.
"It gives me satisfaction," he said beforehand. "Personally, my wife was an outstanding officer. She was thoroughly professional, she regarded her civilian life more as a temporary leave from full-time Army service."
Juanita Warman was a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and she had volunteered for a tour of duty in Iraq.
"She felt she could do more good by getting to those soldiers more quickly, while they were actually still in the service," Philip Warman said.
His wife, who had served in the Army Reserve for 24 years, had only just arrived at Fort Hood after training at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., when the shooting occurred, Philip Warman said.
"She was primed and ready to go," he said. "She certainly would have done well, but that was cut short at Fort Hood. I felt that just to shrug it off as some sort of unfortunate incident or a dispute with another soldier or something like that really didn't recognize the true nature of what she was going to do and what she, in fact, faced."
Philip Warman was at home in Havre de Grace, Md., when his mother-in-law called to tell him about the shooting. He wasn't too concerned at first, thinking his wife was still en route to Fort Hood from her other training.
"Then I turned on the TV and started watching," he said. "I called her, and I didn't get any answer on her cellphone, so I just assumed she might have been involved in treating casualties."
Philip Warman shown with his wife, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman. Juanita Warman was the highest-ranking service member killed during the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo: Courtesy Philip Warman)
It wasn't until later that night that Philip Warman began to worry.
"It was after dark, I remember, and I started calling emergency numbers," he said.
At about 10 p.m., he heard a knock on his door.
"There were two officers in Class A's, and I knew what that meant," he said.
Losing his wife was hard, Philip Warman said.
"It's hard to describe," he said. But he has moved forward.
"When your loved one is deployed, I think it's up to the people who are behind to make sure everything stays intact and goes along while they're doing their service," he said. "I think that's really what I had to do. You just have to keep going, otherwise you extend the grief longer, and that makes the tragedy worse."
His wife was strong, intelligent and determined, and she likely would have felt some satisfaction to be receiving the Purple Heart, Philip Warman said.
"She's an example of the finest that the nation has," he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Paul Martin was determined to stay in the Army Reserve after he was shot four times during Hasan's rampage.
Lt. Col. Juanita L. Warman, of Havre De Grace, Md., was killed during the 2009 Fort Hood shooting. She was assigned to the 1908th Medical Company, Independence, Mo. (Photo: Army)
"It means a lot to me," Martin, a petroleum supply specialist who served 14 years in the active Army before switching to the Reserve, said before the ceremony. "I'm like a kid waiting for his Christmas present the day before Christmas. I feel it's an honor to be honored by my country that I love to serve and I fought for."
Martin, 50, was preparing to deploy to Iraq with the 716th Quartermaster Company from Jersey City, N,J., when he was shot.
The bullets struck Martin in both arms, his back and his left thigh.
One of his first goals after he was wounded was to return to duty, he said. His recovery took almost two years.
"My family standing behind me and religious faith, that was what helped me recover," Martin said.
Martin, who is now an Active Guard and Reserve soldier in the 141st Quartermaster Company of Tyler, Texas, said he initially struggled because his wounds prevented him from deploying with his soldiers.
"I was a leader, and I couldn't be there for my soldiers," he said. "I struggled with leaving my soldiers hanging. That was hard. I felt I let them down."
But his soldiers' encouragement, counseling and faith helped him through, Martin said.
He even made it to the tarmac at Fort Dix, N.J., to welcome home his soldiers after their Iraq deployment.
Staff Sgt. Paul Martin embraces a fellow soldier after a deployment. Martin was one of several soldiers wounded at the Fort Hood shooting Nov. 5, 2009. (Photo: Carlos Cintron/Army)
"All I did was be a soldier and continue to soldier on and do my job to the best of my ability," he said.
For Valdivia, a behavioral health specialist assigned to the 330th Medical Brigade outside Chicago, his willingness to volunteer for a deployment is what brought him to Fort Hood that day.
Valdivia, who had previously served in Kuwait and Iraq, volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan with the 452nd Combat Stress Control from Madison, Wis.
"I like being a soldier, and there was an opportunity for me to do something I like to do," he said. "It sounds silly, but I wanted to go to Afghanistan because I wanted to see the mountains."
On the day of the shooting, after some initial confusion and wrangling, Valdivia was able to get his records pulled for his pre-deployment medical checks.
"The lady said it was my lucky day," he said. "She had my records and she was going to print them. Then everything happened."
Valdivia was shot in his right leg and hip. A third bullet grazed his left ear.
He has endured several surgeries, including two that involved putting a rod in his right leg where the femur was shattered. His doctors initially told him he never would run again.
Survivors and the families of those who were killed in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting received Purple Hearts and Defense Medals of Freedom in an April 10, 2015 ceremony in Texas. (Photo: Getty Images)
"I love running, so I'd go to the trails and I'd pretend to run," he said.
Valdivia finally worked up the ability to run for 10 seconds straight.
"The pain was very strong," he said. But he kept pushing, slowly increasing his running time to 12 seconds at a time, then 15 seconds at a time and so on.
Today, he can run up to 2 miles, maybe 2½, "if I'm lucky," he said.
"I just kept on going and going," he said. "Sometimes things don't go the way you want, but I'm still here."
To sum it all up, Cone wanted the survivors to remember that they're not victims and quoted from author Steve Maraboli's Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience:
"You are not a victim. No matter what you have been through, you are still here," he said. "You may have been challenged, hurt, betrayed, beaten, and discouraged, but nothing has defeated you. ... You are not a victim; you are a victor.: